Living in Cluj Napoca as an Expat: What Is It Like?

Cluj Napoca is one of the top choices when it comes to expats in Romania. The city is one of the fastest growing ones in the country, with massive investments made in all areas, so it makes sense.

Cluj is the fourth largest city in Romania, far behind Bucharest in terms of population and very close to Timisoara and Iasi. Around 300,000 people live in Cluj Napoca, so it’s a pretty large city.

But what is it like to live in Cluj Napoca? We’re going to talk about this – with a focus on expat life in the city – in today’s article.

So without further ado, let’s see if and why should you move or retire to Cluj Napoca, Romania!

A few things to know about Cluj Napoca

cluj napoca center

It is a city with rich history, the first official information dating back to around 106 A.D. after the Romans conquered Dacia.

During the middle ages, the city was occupied by Hungary and was officially a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918 and also for a brief period of time in the 1940s.

As a result, the majority of the population of Cluj Napoca was Hungarian by the late 1960s, when things shifted because of the communist regime that sent Romanian workers for the industrialization of the area.

Until 2004, the city was led by a Romanian nationalist figure that promoted hate against the Hungarians and as a result of his policies, the city stagnated due to a lack of investments.

But since 2004, when the nationalist leader lost office, Cluj started to grow rapidly and established itself as one of the most important cities in Romania: as a major part of the country’s economy, as well as a city of culture and arts.

Located in the North-Eastern part of the country, it is close to other important cities in the area, like Oradea, Alba Iulia, Targu Mures and Sighisoara.

Cluj Napoca is also one important university center in Romania, one of the greatest in the country too, together with Bucharest, Timisoara or Iasi.

In other words, the younger population is mixed well with the older ones and the city itself offers opportunities for all ages.

The city is known as the main IT hub of the country, with tons of start-ups choosing it for their home base, but also multinational corporations choosing to set up office here.

As a result, Cluj is not only one of the fastest growing cities in Romania, but also one of the most expensive.

The prices for rent, for example – as well as those for purchasing property – are higher than in Bucharest which was until recently the undefeated leader in terms of costs.

Cluj is also one of the most beautiful cities in the country, with many old buildings still standing and in a good shape.

The old city center is specifically charming, although you still get a crazy mix of old architecture and communist building blocks that ruin the view.

The city also has an international airport (which grows in terms of destinations on a yearly basis), as well as the train station that connects it to the rest of Romania.

It’s also relatively close to Budapest, being situated in the middle between Budapest and Bucharest.

Where to live in Cluj, Romania

Most of the areas in Cluj are great choices to live in and you should pick the place where you want to live based on an important factor: proximity to your work place or school.

If none of these matter, then your obvious choice would be to live as close to the old city area as possible, as that is where the most important attractions in the city are, as well as restaurants and shops or the parks and the beautiful Botanical Garden.

Other great areas to live in are those relatively close to the city center: Zorilor to the South and Marasti and Intre Lacuri to the East. So you have a lot of places to choose from, which is a good thing.

If you want to get a bit more in depth with choosing the place to live, I have a complete guide about the best neighborhoods in Cluj Napoca.

What’s the cost of living in Cluj Napoca?

aerial view of Cluj Napoca

Since Cluj in one of the fastest growing cities in Romania, the cost of living in the city – especially when it comes to property prices – is very high compared to the rest of the country.

The cost of living here has been pushed up by the huge demand for housing, usually from well-paid IT workers which are drawn into the city by various start-ups, but also established companies that open new branches and search for new workers.

New apartment buildings have been built over the past few years, but they are towards the outskirts of the city and generally farther away from the main work hubs.

As a result, both property prices and rentals are the highest in the country. This means that you can end up paying 500 Euros a month for a studio – which is pretty high by Romanian standards.

Fortunately, food and other expenses follow trend with Romanian costs, so they are still cheap. There’s a huge offering in this area, so if you want to get started on the right foot, make sure to check out my previous article about the best restaurants in Cluj Napoca.

But overall, Cluj is definitely one of the most expensive cities to live in Romania at the moment.

You can check out the cost of living article I have written in order to have an idea about food prices and other costs in Romania.

Is Cluj Napoca Safe?

Like most of the country, Cluj can be considered a very safe city to live in. You will never feel unsafe walking late at night – nor risk getting mugged during any time of day.

While petty crime is present in Cluj Napoca, most of the city’s areas are very safe and you shouldn’t worry too much about your safety.

Very few people own guns here (and throughout the country) and violent crimes are few and far in between and never aimed at the random stranger or expat. So overall, you will be very safe in Cluj.

If you want to get even more in depth with this topic, I have an article regarding safety in Cluj here.

Lifestyle to expect in Cluj Napoca as an Expat

Cluj Napoca is a vibrant, beautiful city with a growing interest in culture and arts. As a result, the offers in these areas keep growing and improving.

Being a city that draws in a more affluent population, it also has some higher standards of living compared to your regular Romanian city, but since it also has a lot of students, if also offers various options when it comes to cheap entertainment and living.

In other words, Cluj can be exactly as you want it to be: a young city with all-night parties, cheap alcohol and cheap food; or a higher brow city, with classical music, chic restaurants and luxury accommodation for you.

Which is a great thing – there are few cities that can mix and match two completely different types of living as nicely as Cluj does, without being huge and chaotic as Bucharest is, for example.

And if we are to talk about more touristic attractions, there are plenty that you should check out after arriving here. Make sure to read my previous article sharing the top things to do in Cluj Napoca to know them all.

Can you drink the tap water in Cluj Napoca?

Tap water is safe to drink in Cluj, but the quality varies depending on the area of the city you live in.

The central areas have better water, coming from underground sources, while the newer neighborhoods get their water from the nearby Tarnita river.

This is why people living in the younger neighborhoods that get their water from the river prefer bottled water instead of the tap water.

Some even complain that the taste of water is unbearable and bitter, but the truth is that all tap water in the city is treated and you can drink it safely. It’s mostly a mater of preference to go for bottled water instead.


Cluj Napoca is one of the fastest growing cities in Romania, if not THE fastest growing one at the moment.

Successful businesses are being launched here, international corporations open branches in the city and it seems like a haven for better paying jobs, especially for those working in the IT department.

The city itself has a lot to offer, from the beautiful architecture to the amazing green spaces that Romania is known for.

With a pretty large expat population (at least compared to the rest of Romania) and its centuries spent under Hungary’s occupation, this is a city considered to have a more Western feel than most in the country.

English is widely spoken and there are opportunities to easily meet new people, no matter what kind of friends you’re looking for.

All in all, Cluj Napoca is a city where a family of three could live on 2,000 Euros per month if they’re living like the locals do, but where you will have to pay a bit more than in other Romanian cities if you want a nice apartment, eating out a lot and enjoying all the entertainment options this beautiful city has to offer.

If Cluj is not your type of city, I’ve written in-depth analysis of other potential cities to move to or retire to in Romania: Drobeta Turnu Severin (extremely cheap!), Timisoara, Brasov or Bucharest.

Have you been to Cluj Napoca in Romania? Are you planning to move here or retire in this city? Let us all know by commenting below!

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6 thoughts on “Living in Cluj Napoca as an Expat: What Is It Like?”

  1. Cluj Napoca sounds like it would be a lovely way to ease into the Romanian lifestyle. We didn’t get to visit, but it looks very nice. I can understand why it’s a rapidly growing city, especially for IT workers. Next time hopefully 😆.

    • Since it’s so far away from Bucharest, it’s relatively difficult to visit both during a stay in Romania… but it is indeed worth it. And just like Bucharest, it has some impressive attractions just a stone’s throw away, like the impressive Turda saltworks.


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